It’s Not Just Trump, and It’s Not New.

While doing some maintainance on Mahablog today I came across a post I wrote in 2007, On Our Own. It was about the Bush Administration, but it could have been applied to Trump.

I’d say what we’re really dealing with is not a lack of leadership, but negative leadership. By that I mean a stubborn refusal to deal rationally with the nation’s problems accompanied by an equally stubborn refusal not to let anyone else deal with those problems, either. The Bush Administration accumulates power and won’t share it with anyone, but neither will the Bush Administration use that power to anyone’s benefit but its own.

I say you could substitute “Trump” for “Bush” and it would still be true, except now it’s worse. As we’ve seen, one of the several reasons the administration has failed to respond to the pandemic is that Trump’s people are afraid to so much as breathe without orders from Trump. So the Trump appointees leading the CDC and FDA did not take actions that were within their power. This includes functions those agencies had exercised in previous administrations, such as quickly giving private labs the go-ahead to develop tests. Weeks were wasted.

There is also a fascinating parallel between the Trumpies and the Bushies in the way they stubbornly refused to heed warnings — about terrorism or pandemics — and then, like Condi Rice, complained “no one could have imagined” a warned-about thing would happen after the warned-about thing did happen. See Aaron Blake, Trump keeps saying ‘nobody’ could have foreseen coronavirus. We keep finding out about new warning signs.

Back to what I wrote in 2007,

A year ago The Center for America’s Future released a report (PDF) documenting the failures of the Bush Administration to respond to Katrina. The Bushies failed to prepare, they failed to respond, and they have failed to rebuild. And behind these failures was more than just sheer incompetence; it was conservative ideology. The disabling factors were rightie disdain for government, their reckless determination to privatize core functions (placing blind faith in the market without oversight or accountability) and their fondness for “pay-to-play” politics, in which money capitalism and personal gain count for more than performance. These three “beliefs,” beloved of the extreme Right, are crippling America.

And, unfortunately, not nearly enough was done in the Obama years to push back against this nonsense. I’m being hard on Republicans, but Democrats have been way too accommodating to the whackjobs for lo these many years. That’s got to stop.

Mr. Ivanka, Trump’s pea-brained son-in-law, has set up what’s being called a “shadow task force” in the White House that is tasked with improving testing and health care delivery. He’s pulled together random people from private industry — officials from UPS and FedEx, for example — with some of his allies in government to work independently of everyone else in Washington and otherwise be in the way. Mr. Ivanka wants to bring “an entrepreneurial approach” to the pandemic crisis. Seriously, he said that.

Kushner defended his role in an interview, saying his team’s goal was to bring “an entrepreneurial approach” to the crisis.

“We’re getting things done in record speeds and are doing everything possible to avoid damage and mitigate the negative impacts,” Kushner said. “In America, some of our best resources are in our private sector. The federal government is not designed to solve all our problems; a lot of the muscle is in the private sector and there’s also a lot of smart people.”

Recalling what an absolute mess Mr. Ivanka has made of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I’d say we’re doomed. Kushner’s entrepreneurs are mostly causing chaos, according to WaPo. Senior officials say they are confused by all the emails they get from private industry employees connected to Kushner’s team, and they worry that the shadow people aren’t following government security protocols. “We don’t know who these people are,” one senior official said.

Kushner said, “The federal government is not designed to solve all our problems.” Not all problems, of course, but in times past it has done a damn good job addressing problems that were beyond the scope of for-profit private enterprise. But 40 years of Reaganite government-is-the-problem politics have left us with a useless, incompetent federal government and many state governments that are just as bad.

The hapless Max Boot, once a full-throated supporter of George W. Bush and the use of U.S. troops to spread good ol’ hairy-chested American hegemony, by damn, seems to see the world differently now. In The coronavirus shows how backward the United States has become, he writes,

We should not be especially surprised by our failure at pandemic-fighting, because if we are being honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that the United States has long been failing. We remain one of the richest countries in the world, but by international standards we look more like a Third World nation.

As Quartz pointed out in 2017, we lag in almost every measure of societal well-being among the wealthy nations (now 36) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). As of 2016, we had the second-highest poverty rate, the highest level of income inequality and the highest level of obesity. We spent the most on education but produced less-than-average results. We were also below average on renewable energy, infrastructure investment and voter turnout. We are the only OECD nation that doesn’t mandate paid family leave. One area where we do lead is gun violence. Our homicide rate is nearly 50 percent above the OECD average.
Our health-care failures are particularly important now. We spend more on health care than any other country in the world, but we are the only OECD country without universal medical coverage (27.9 million Americans lacked health insurance in 2018). Child mortality in the United States is the highest in the OECD, and life expectancy is below average. We have far fewer hospital beds per capita than other advanced democracies (2.4 compared to 12.2 in South Korea), which makes us particularly vulnerable to a pandemic.

How did this happen? Boot asks. And after some hmmming and hawing, he concedes: “The Republicans’ decades-long demonization of government has consequences.”

Consider the eight senators who voted against the Covid-19 relief package yesterday: Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Jim Inhofe (R-OK); James Lankford (R-OK); Mike Lee (R-UT); Rand Paul (R-KY); Ben Sasse (R-NE); Tim Scott (R-SC), and Ron Johnson (R-WI). Ron Johnson made some revealing remarks

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has called on people to have some “perspective” while the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that “no more than 3.4 percent” of the infected population is in danger of dying from the virus, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. … “we don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways.”

Yeah, people, just tough it out. The economy comes first, never mind the workforce. No clue whatsoever.

I wrote in 2007,

I fear that someday Americans will find themselves living in a post-industrial backwater, and our status as the most powerful and prosperous nation on the planet will be a dim memory. Our only hope is to use the representative government established by the Constitution to restore sanity to government. But the right-wing crazies are doing their damnedest to destroy that, too.

And here we are. See Derek Thompson, America Is Acting Like a Failed State.

Throughout the world, the most effective responses to the historic threat of the coronavirus have come from state governments. China imposed a lockdown of tens of millions of people in Wuhan and other cities. In Singapore, the government built an app to inform citizens how to contain the virus and what public spaces to avoid. South Korea opened a number of drive-through centers to accelerate diagnostic testing.

But in the United States, the pandemic has devolved into a kind of grotesque caricature of American federalism. The private sector has taken on quasi-state functions at a time when the executive branch of government—drained of scientific expertisestarved of moral vision—has taken on the qualities of a failed state. In a country where many individuals, companies, institutions, and local governments are making hard decisions for the good of the nation, the most important actor of them all—the Trump administration—has been a shambolic bonanza of incompetence.

Now the Great Orange Moron is strutting around calling himself a “war president.” It won’t be long before he’ll be telling people he should have been POTUS during World War II instead of that loser Franklin Roosevelt.

Assuming we defeat Trump in November, it will be up to the next administration to educate people that we can’t go on like this. Even if we somehow stumble through this disaster intact, there will be another. And another. Global pandemics will become more common. Terrorism isn’t going away. Our infrastructure isn’t going to repair itself. The health care system isn’t going to reform itself. The very wealthy are not going to stop plundering the planet and exploiting the rest of us. We need a competent government.

14 thoughts on “It’s Not Just Trump, and It’s Not New.

  1. If 3.4 percent of the US population died, that would be close to the total number of all combatants for all nations killed in World War I. Ron Johnson (comparing it to "tens of thousands") is probably too stupid to do the math.

  2. Expecting anything proper from the Trump* White House is fruitless.  Trump*'s supporters and concealers are desperate to cling to power to do what they can before he gets dumped in November. There will be a lot to undo.


  3. I think for Bush and Trump there was/is a contempt for the huge sums spent by the government which don't enrich private firms. Two huge examples are the VA and the US Postal Service. (Both of which have resisted privatization.)  From a Republican POV, not enough of the money spent by the VA and USPS is hitting the bottom line of corporations who donate to SuperPACS.  The example of success is the Pentagon (and their partnership with the military complex) military spending and the agriculture industries whose profits are damn near underwritten by government subsidies. They kickback generously for the windfall corporate welfare. IMO, the reaction of a conservative to an agency that only serves the needs of citizens (without enriching the donor class) is revulsion.  Yes, Democrats have their donor class who do well because of their contacts but many liberal programs are designed to meet needs of citizens, at least partially.

    Ron Johnson (IMO) is reeling from 11 Trillion in losses by Wall Street. Billionares have been turned into mere millionaires. Some will have to sell yachts and planes and cut back on political contributions to SuperPACS. What's the loss of a million old people compared to the affluence of the top tenth of a percent. Paupers die every year but rich people are hurting!

    I don't know, but Trump's lack of empathy may burst the bubble that the cult lives in when they attend funerals for people who died in the hospital hallways for lack of staff and supplies and the survivors who got ventilators include the ultra-rich. 

    Trump built his credentials by bashing Obama and pissing off liberals. That's carried Trump for three years because the hateful racist actions fed the narrative of us v them. Now the victims will be old white conservatives, not Mexicans.  

    "hospital beds per capita than other advanced democracies (2.4 compared to 12.2 in South Korea)"  In a matter of days the toll in Italy has overtaken China. The rate of infection overwhelmed Italy and we're poised to take the same dive as Italy. I don't claim any inside knowledge about what the rate will be in the US – for lack of testing, nobody knows.  We will find out.

  4. Mr Ivanka is the Dunning Kruger effect personified and on steroids.

    It’s mind-boggling that these nitwits push aside experienced scientists and health care people and are going to rely on the private sector. I think this people sit up all night trying to figure out novel ways to grift the government (that’s you and me) now that they can.

    Regardless of Max Boot’s past, his article was profoundly on target. He writes well.

    • I don't think they have to stay up all night thinking of ways to grift. I think they do it when they are on the clock. Grifting is the reason that they serve in the capacity that they do. Like worker bees they all labor to support the colony. I suspect that Jared is the most gifted of the male grifters in the organization and that's why he gets all the potentially profitable leads. 

       But I could be wrong. It could be that Donny and Eric have a more stealthy style of grifting and don't have to rely overt direction from the master grifter. Whatever the case maybe we can rest assured they are all busy working to feather their own nests.

       It really turns my stomach when I see Ivana hob knobing with world leaders when it comes to matters that are well over her head concerning expertise in fields she knows nothing about.

      • I remember watching an interview of, I think Lev Parnas, the shady Ukranian involved in Trump's efforts to get them to dig up dirt on Biden. He is a charming character, and with a wry smile, patiently explained to the reporter, something like this:

        "you see, in America, people go into politics to do good for the country. In the Ukraine, people go into politics to enrich themselves" It was like watching an older uncle explain some basic fact of life to an innocent child.

        You're exactly right, Swami. Grifting is why they're there.

  5. moonbat,

    How about we rename that psychological issue of, well, basic cluelessness of one's own abilities and inabilities, " The Conservative/Republican Effect?"

    My apologies to those two fine psychological folks, but we need to hammer  home into people's heads what exactly has been – and will continue to be if we don't value start to value Keanes far, far more than  Friedman – the cancer that's been killing our country ever since "St. Ronnie Of Who Am I/Where Am I/Who The Hell Are You?" lifted his lying hand off the (also lying) Bible: CONSERVATISM!!!!*


    *And bigotry in all of its hideous stylings.

  6. I live in a 55+ apt. complex owned by a big corporation and managed by another company.  We have amenities like an exercise room (small) a community room and a pub.  We do have management personnel on the premises during the week.  They do a fairly good job but of course are not the boss.  Last week we were informed we were to practice social distancing, basically stay away from people who were obviously ill but also to maintain a 6 ft. distance from others.  They then closed the community room, pub and exercise room.  Two days later they opened the community room, pub but kept the exercise room locked.  What a message that sends.  We can't stay healthy by exercising but we can drink so that we don't care.  There is a small group of women who play cards in the evening in the community room and another small group who congregate in the pub.  They certainly are not maintaining social distancing and they are free to come and go out into the community at will.  IMO, it is a disaster waiting to happen.  The way this virus multiplies, it would  only take one of them to wipe out the whole building. I can only protect myself by hibernating in my apt.  That is not hard for me because I am not a social butterfly anyway but I resent the chaos and confusion created by their stupid policies.  I know government is not perfect but I know I could do better.  Maybe I will run for president.  Will any of you vote for me?  I'm only 80yo and could probably last a month.  I could make a lot of enemies in that time.

    • Good luck with you run for President. I'd vote for you. I was considering buying an ambassadorship in the Trump administration, but because of my depleted financial state I think I could only afford to buy via a campaign donation an Undersecretary of Defense appointment.

  7. Great article as always.

    Gosh, Grannyeagle, I think you described a situation that is both common and risky.  I know it's useless to say "take care of yourself," because you are already doing that, but, just accept the solidarity component.  I'd vote for you, especially if you have Elizabeth Warren as a VP

    Each day something reminds me of something Noam Chomsky said, "The Republican party has morphed into the most destructive institution in history."  "That's harsh," as they used to say a couple of decades ago, but, I think it's true.

    My normal life meets the self-quarantine criteria, so I could do this standing on my pointed little head.  But, my wife is in public health, so without a doubt, we'll both be exposed sooner or later.

    Cheers, everyone, let's all meet on the other side, but, let's not do it too soon, let's give it a decade at least.

  8. Fantastic article and comments.  

    We seem to be passing third world status in corruption.  Some Senators made large stock sales after a briefing on the tRump confefe-19 virus.  What an extreme misuse of insider information.  Did not Martha Stewart have to spend hard time for just the same transgression?  

  9. grannyeagle,

    I'll vote fer ya!

    With me and Swami, that makes two people!

    Which is one more than, what's her name, the Congresswoman from Hawaii got in the primaries.

  10. Two votes already.  That's great!  This is gonna be easier than I thought.  Seriously, I appreciate all the good thoughts, it makes my heart warmer and maybe I can be a little more forgiving with everyone else.  It's not useless to tell me to take  care of myself.  True, I am doing that the best I can but one can always use positive encouragement.

    OT:  This is the year of the Rat and my book tells me this will be a year of plenty bringing opportunity and good prospects.  It will be a happier year than most; free from explosive events and wars.  But it will be spicy with a lot of bickering and petty arguments.  To me, it doesn't seem like that is accurate but it is still early.  My book also describes how other "animals" fare in this year so I will look up Trump's sign, see what it says and get back to you.  In the meantime, stay healthy and happy.

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